A good customer service team is fundamental. You can sell the best products at unbeatable prices. You can secure celebrity endorsements and push your advertising worldwide. But if your customers can’t get the support they need when they need it, you could end up undoing your hard work when word spreads.
Even just one bad interaction with a member of your customer service team may be enough to chase a buyer away: 52 percent of consumers admit to switching brands for this very reason.
One major impediment to your customer experience is your team’s structure. Do you have the right number of employees on hand to assist consumers? Have you appointed enough quality assurance analysts to track performance? Are your team leaders requesting smaller groups to oversee?
The ratio of agents, QA analysts and team leaders in your customer service team must be considered carefully for maximum performance. Below, we’ll explore the difficulties of hiring the right number of agents, getting QA team sizes and proportions right, and more.
Customer Service Agents and Team Leaders
Let’s start with agents. Without a good, solid team of customer service agents handling calls, live chats, social-media interactions and email communications, you’re putting your call center at a disadvantage.
An effective training program and quality assurance are instrumental in keeping your agents performing at their very best, but actually keeping a good balance of staff levels is equally important.
If you have too few agents, customers making calls will be on hold, those using live chat will be waiting to be connected and emails will go unresponded to. But if you have too many, some staff will be twiddling their thumbs while you pay them to do nothing.
Understanding the Erlang Models
One common method for determining the number of agents you need is the Erlang C formula. This calculates your result based on such criteria as Average Handle Time, Incoming Contacts, Required Service Level, Max Occupancy and more. Using an Erlang C calculator can be problematic, though.
If you put in the wrong number, you could end up leaving your call center under- or overstaffed. And that means you’ll spend more time and money putting things right. Make sure you’re careful when using this and use it as a guide only — don’t take the result it gives you as a definitive conclusion.
Use your own judgement based on various types of data, as discussed below.
Response Times and Demand
You have to make sure your agents are able to start helping customers as soon as possible. However, most consumers understand they can’t always expect to have their call or live chat request answered immediately, though that doesn’t mean you can be complacent.
Surveys show close to two-thirds of consumers are willing to wait up to two minutes for a response, while around 15 percent refuse to even reach out to customer service teams because they expect a long wait.
It’s best, then, to err on the side of caution and aim to keep customers across phone and live chat interactions waiting no longer than 90 seconds. But bear your sector, business size and audience in mind. Smaller companies in small niches can afford to have fewer agents than, say, a global brand with hundreds of thousands of customers worldwide.
The products and / or services you offer affect the number of agents you need too. For example, technology brands should expect customers to need help with gadgets, based on their complexity and potential problems.
Something like clothing, on the other hand, requires less hands-on assistance — consumers may request help for drying a wet smartphone, but not so much finding pants that fit.
Customer satisfaction varies fairly dramatically from industry to industry, with one survey finding Real Estate’s satisfaction rate was 96 percent while Entertainment and Arts’ was just 77 percent. Regardless of industry, though, a positive customer experience is paramount. All businesses depend on their customers, and none can afford to forget that.
You can use data gathered through your call center or customer service team’s quality assurance program to help determine how long people are waiting, the average time agents take to handle an interaction and customer satisfaction scores. All this will help you identify if you need to hire more agents.
Effective Team Leadership
And don’t forget your team leaders either. These help support, encourage and motivate your agents, serving as a conduit between management and customer-service representatives. Each leader should be responsible for overseeing a manageable group only: don’t impose 15 agents on them and expect each to get the attention they deserve.
Assigning too few team leaders will make managing agents, operating an effective QA program and driving improvements in customer service much more difficult than it should be.
The Magic Number of QA Analysts
Quality assurance analysts evaluate interactions across phone, live chat and email to measure performance. It’s an important job, but it can be hard too — especially when they have a large list of agents to review.
Determining the right QA team sizes and proportions is a little more difficult than with agents. Obviously, the bigger your customer service team, the more analysts you’ll need. One may be enough for a small group of agents, even if they’re reviewing, say, 15 interactions per agent per week.
Managing Workloads and Staying Efficient
A critical aspect of QA team sizes and proportions is their workloads. Basic admin tasks (gathering interactions to evaluate, organizing scorecards etc.) can be an unnecessary waste of time, but cutting-edge QA software will automate much of this and leave them free to focus on the more important parts of their work.
A failure to get your QA team sizes and proportions right may have a direct impact on the effectiveness of your quality assurance program. While your analysts could handle a massive number of evaluations assigned to them, if they’re rushing through them to hit a target they might miss key issues demanding attention.
Furthermore, their feedback, coaching and training may be equally brief or sloppy, leaving agents without the guidance they need. And your customer experience could be far worse than it should be, costing you precious buyers.
Make sure you work out the number of interactions that need to be evaluated each week and factor in your QA analysts’ other tasks (feedback, coaching etc.). This gives you helpful information for managing your QA team sizes and proportions successfully.
Your agents, team leaders and QA team sizes and proportions have a huge impact on your customer service. Failing to provide your audience with an accessible, efficient support team will leave them unsatisfied and possibly unwilling to spend any more with your brand.
A key element of maintaining the right balance in your customer service team is quality assurance. Your QA team sizes and proportions must be considered carefully to ensure interactions are evaluated accurately, feedback is never rushed and a proper training strategy is implemented. If your QA team is understaffed and forced to review performance in a hurry, their work will be far less effective.
Keep monitoring data in your call center or customer service department to stay on top of expectations and overall demand. Average interaction lengths, abandoned call rates, CSAT scores and more will all tell you if your team needs to grow.
What advice do you have for call centers or customer service departments unsure if their staff ratios are good enough? Feel free to let us know below!